Most governments around the world are still on the fence on adopting blockchain while Thailand seems to have fully embraced the revolutionary technology.
While other countries (like the United States) are still trying to wrap their heads around the technology and how to implement it into their current infrastructure, Thailand and its government are already plotting its own central bank digital currency. Furthermore, Thai regulators have made significant strides since 2017; from opening up cryptocurrency company licenses to permitting exchanges and ICOs to operate in the country. The country has also gained interest from international firms by presenting clear-cut and decisive guidelines for foreign blockchain companies to run. It’s a model that we are seeing across most of Southeast Asia, and one that blockchain and cryptocurrency startup founders should take note of as they about global expansion. 
Moving Swiftly Through the Blockchain Space
In order to understand how a small country like Thailand can move so swiftly in the blockchain space, it’s important to know the approach of regulators and local companies. Unlike their western peers, most Asian blockchain companies and exchanges work with local regulators right from the beginning, even as they are first building their products and growing their communities. These organizations use formal and informal connections to get buy-in from their respective local governments in order to reinforce their reliability. 
It’s not just the fact that Thailand is actively embracing the industry, but it is also how quickly and efficiently they are doing it. Authorities around the world seem to be playing catch up with crypto when it comes to creating and implementing regulations, even though the industry has been around for nearly 10 years. Thailand seems to have seen its potential and employed a decisive strategy when it came to the future of the technology in the country. 
Let’s look at a few key examples of how Thailand has emerged as one of the most compelling countries in Southeast Asia when it comes to blockchain and cryptocurrencies — especially in 2018.
Progress, Progress, Progress.
Blockchain startups aren’t the only ones trying to fortify ties with government officials. Here are a few key examples:
- In June of this year, Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recognized 7 cryptocurrencies as being sufficient (based on various metrics including having sufficient global liquidity, sufficient technology and other factors) as base trading pairs that exchanges are allowed to use, and of which ICOs are allowed to use for fundraising (also in Thai Baht). These cryptocurrencies namely being Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin cash, Ethereum classic, Litecoin, Ripple, and Stellar. It has also sanctioned a confined number of cryptocurrency exchanges and broker-dealers to apply for operating licenses.
- In July, the Thailand SEC authorized additional digital token issuers to file for applications. In the same month, the securities regulator categorized ICOs into three types: investment tokens, utility tokens, and cryptocurrency.
- In early July, Bithumb, the second largest cryptocurrency exchange in Korea, proclaimed that it intends to open in Thailand after receiving the required regulatory go-ahead from the local government.
- In August of 2018, the Bank of Thailand (BoT) described an introductory roadmap for ‘Project Inthanon,’ its central bank digital currency (CBDC) initiative. This is following similar projects initiated by other central banks, including the Bank of Canada, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Monetary Authority of Singapore. BoT plans to work with eight participating banks to start building a prototype.
Thailand Implementing CBDC Project
The Bangkok Post reported that the Bank of Thailand’s wholesale Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which is a real-time interbank settlement system used for banks only, is expected to be completely developed by the first quarter of 2019, says the central bank.
“This is definitely positive news for Thailand. Many people around the world are now eyeing Thailand as a blockchain destination,” Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa, Co-Founder & CEO at crypto-currency exchange Bitkub and former CEO of leading Thai Bitcoin exchange coins.co.th, told Asia Times.
New developments in the works, according to Topp, include the SEC creating a crypto-currency exchange license, crypto-currency broker license and a crypto-currency dealer license. On the ICO side, they have created an ICO portal license and legalized seven crypto trading pairs, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin cash, Ethereum classic, Litecoin, Ripple and Stellar.
“This is definitely a positive direction for crypto-currency and blockchain technology in Thailand as the space is being legitimized by the regulators. This will encourage an influx of traditional investors and more institutional money will flow to the crypto-currency industry in Thailand,” said Topp. 
With Thailand leading the charge in the embracement of blockchain and cryptocurrency in Southeast Asia, we will likely see other parts of the world follow suit to work in alignment with their respective local governments — this will be essential if we want to see startups and companies thrive in the dynamics of this ever-growing market.
Beyond Blocks is very excited for the upcoming Summit Bangkok blockchain conference, where we will hear and see first-hand of what all the hype is about in regards to blockchain development in Thailand and Southeast Asia.
One of our (already) announced speakers is Bhume Bhumiratana, technology consultant for the Thai SEC. Read more here!